A lot was talked about when Mount Pleasant shop 3 Vets closed its door for good in December 2017.
The much-loved great-outdoors store on Yukon Street and West Sixth Avenue had been on the same corner for 51 years. So community members were, quite naturally, saddened to say goodbye to it.
3 Vets co-owner Jerry Wolfman told the Courier that the 70-year-old, family-run business had fallen prey to a few factors: burgeoning property tax bills, the proliferation of big-box retailers and the online marketplace. About 15 employees were affected by the sale; some staff had worked at the shop for 40 years.
The property was sold to a developer. It was demolished earlier this year and construction has now begun taking place at the site.
But there was one thing that everyone failed to mention … what would happen to 3 Vets’ web-footed friends Grey and Goose?
For several years, a male Canada goose had made the 3 Vets parking lot his home away from home, becoming a neighbourhood celebrity in the process.
In a previous interview about the geese, Wolfman said the male goose would wander the parking lot and adjacent sidewalks looking for food and watching traffic while his mate tended to the nest atop a nearby building.
If you’re wondering how they got their names, the pair of geese were nicknamed by 3 Vets staff after the brand of vodka ‘Grey Goose.’ Wolfman said he and his employees would enjoy a quick nip of the drink after a long day at work.
The male goose, had been around so long he was basically part of the furniture, and can even be seen in the background of the photo (below) taken to go along with the story on the store’s closure.
Wolfman said over the years, development and densification in the neighbourhood had disrupted nesting habits of geese and the parking lot was one of the few safe, wide-open spaces for this gander to “chill out and hang.”
Well, not anymore.
He had been renovicted, in a way, like many Vancouverites before him, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Over the past couple of months, during various walks to work, I witnessed the goose staring from across the street at the construction site.
At the time I didn’t understand why, new to the area I didn’t know the tale behind Grey and Goose. My colleagues filled me in.
I know it may seem silly, but I was sad for him. Like so many, his home had been ripped away from him without a second thought from anyone involved.
Every time I saw him he seemed confused, he would wander back and forth and stare up at the fence that now surrounded his old stomping grounds. He would hiss in anger. And, now knowing why, I didn’t blame him.
Despite knowing the backstory, I was curious about the goose’s behaviour and what he might do, so I asked Nathan Clements, a Wildlife Biologist at the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
He first clarified he was “no goose mind reader, by any sorts” but went on to tell me what he thought.
“Canada Geese are interesting critters,” he said. “They typically return to the same nesting area each spring, especially if they’ve successfully raised young in the past, which is likely why this particular goose continues to inspect its previous nesting location.”
Clements said the pair would probably find an alternative nesting area, perhaps on an adjacent building rooftop.
I hadn’t seen him for a little while on my daily strolls, so I assumed the disgruntled goose had moved on, as predicted.
However, colleagues have since spotted the pair in various locations around Mount Pleasant, including the alleyway on the eastside of Alberta Street and near Rocanini Coffee Roasters on West 5th Avenue.
It seems they haven’t quite found a favourite new spot but they are sticking around the area.
On a positive note, Vancouver’s resident geese are known to be resilient birds, and despite the odds against them, have adapted quite well to an urban environment.
A 2016 report for the Vancouver Park Board – Understanding and Managing Resident Canada Geese in Vancouver – highlighted that geese populations were continuing to increase by 3.8 per cent over the years and could reach 5,900 by 2025.
The park board estimates there are 2,500 resident geese in Vancouver.
And while their populations are controlled by egg sterilization, Nick Page, biologist with the Vancouver park board, told the Vancouver Sun “there was evidence to suggest Canada geese were figuring out ways to adapt by nesting in increasingly difficult spots for humans to reach.” He added that the egg sterilizations would have to be ramped up to control population growth successfully.
So on that note, I feel a little more positive that Grey and Goose will find their way through their current struggle.
While some may see geese as a menace, hissing, stopping traffic and pooping where they please, I am simply impressed by these quirky birds.
May the story of Mount Pleasant geese Grey and Goose live on…
— With files from John Kurucz and Michael Kissinger
@elisiaseeber / [email protected]